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Swain County SRO Faces Child Sex Charges

Updated: Thursday, February 20 2014, 11:19 PM EST
Former Swain County High School teacher David Milhous Peterson has been charged with felony statutory rape in Macon County. Peterson most recently worked as a student resource officer for East Swain Elementary. His former boss who hired him, Swain county Sheriff Curtis Cochran, tells News 13 that Peterson had just started working for him.  Peterson had been on the job as an SRO for three weeks.

"We were surprised," said Sheriff Cochran. "Even school administrators (at Swain County) were surprised. He had a squeaky clean background check. We thought he would be a top-notch SRO for us."

Peterson has been charged with the statutory rape count in Macon County where detectives believe he and the alleged 15-year-old female victim had consensual sex. The alleged victim is a high school student in the area.

North Carolina's State Bureau of Investigation has been brought in to investigate additional related charges that could come in Swain County.

"We don't investigate our own," said Sheriff Cochran referencing the SBI's investigation into Peterson.

"He was a science teacher at the high School for years and he came highly recommended from the school system," said Cochran. When asked why Peterson chose to leave teaching, Sheriff Cochran said Peterson told him that he wanted a new career.

Swain County administrators can't comment on the current investigation, but say Peterson worked as a science teacher at Swain County High School since 2007. Swain County school records show Peterson left the school system January 17, 2014 to begin his new work as at SRO. 

Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland said he knows Peterson worked as a teacher in Macon County as well prior to 2007.

"Facebook is where I first saw it and then the 6 p.m. news (on WLOS)," said Jessica Bell who knows Peterson.  Bell graduated one year ahead of Peterson at Swain County High.

"I've only known the best side of David," said Bell. "He was an all-star athlete. A really good person. Always outstanding in his grades, just a loving person." Bell said Peterson's father taught her at Swain County High School. She says Peterson's family has always had a good reputation in the community.

"It's just really hard to believe. I can't discredit anybody, but personally what I've known of him, it's just devastating to hear he's accused of that," said Bell.

"I wouldn't like it at all if it was my daughter I'd be very upset," said Shirley Douthit, who lives down a hill from Peterson.

"I think stuff like that should not be tolerated," said Melvin Gasaway, who also lives near Peterson. "No way, shape, or form of any person with any kind of history of that kind of stuff should be allowed in a position as a resource officer."

Neighbors tell News 13 they've seen SBI officials at Peterson's house including Tuesday night.

According to records, Peterson is more than six years older than the alleged victim. If investigators with the SBI can determine additional locations where Peterson had sex with the underage girl, additional statutory sex related charges could result.  News 13 spoke with a prosecutor knowledgeable with statutory rape cases. He said on a single count a person charged could face up to ten to twenty years in prison. 

Swain County school administrators said they can't comment on the case until the SBI completes its investigation in Swain County.

By Kimberly King
Follow Kim on Twitter @KimKingReportsSwain County SRO Faces Child Sex Charges

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